South Africa’s Health Minister says there is “absolutely no need to panic” over the new coronavirus variant Omicron, despite a surge in cases.

Minister Phaahla said the country is just seeing a repeat, referring to the Beta variant detected in South Africa last December.

South Africa also condemned the travel bans imposed on the country, saying they should be lifted immediately.

On Monday, Japan became the latest country to reinstate tough border restrictions, banning all foreigners from entry, beginning November 30.

The UK, EU and US are among those who earlier imposed travel bans on South Africa and other regional states.

Omicron has been classed as a “variant of concern” with early evidence suggesting it has a heightened re-infection risk.

The heavily mutated variant was detected in South Africa earlier this month and then reported to the World Health Organization, WHO, last Wednesday.

Omicron has now been detected in a number of countries around the world, including the UK, Germany, Australia and Israel.